What I Enjoy About Editing

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Hello, SE’ers John with you again.

Today’s discussion is about editing. I’m currently doing a run-through of the first draft of my WIP, so editing is a top-of-mind subject to me. I must admit that editing is not my first choice of tasks for the writing process. Creating a story and running like the wind to bring it alive is where my joy in writing is centered

Editing seems to me to be a speed bump on the highway of the creative endeavor. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is having to come to grips with all the evidence of missing perfection in the first draft. Of course, I’m probably the only author on the planet who is not excited to get to the editing stage.

In case there are others like me, I made a couple of notes on what I enjoy while editing. By the way, I took a hint from Ernest Hemmingway, who once said, “Write drunk. Edit sober. As a result, a reminder to partake of copious amounts of my favorite libation is not on my list. That may sound a little discouraging, so let’s get to the list of what I enjoy while editing.

  1. I enjoy reviewing words already written. This may sound a little goofy but let me explain. It is relaxing to me to read what is already on the page instead of having to sweat blood creating those words. The fact that they are there and ready to be examined gives me a sense of satisfaction.
  2. I enjoy finding big ole plot holes. Unlike the pits you see in the street, these plot holes are easily repaired. These plot holes, if left alone, can be as jarring to your reader as the street version. I am so grateful to be the one to find and fix these holes that I feel a loving halo over the entire editing process.
  3. I enjoy finding minor mistakes in either characterizations or plot execution. These are small items, but they are like glittering specs of gold in a miner’s pan when found. I’ll give you an example. At one point, my antagonists go into a store to buy new clothes and put them on. Two chapters later, they are still in their old clothes. Tell me catching that little faux pas wouldn’t bring a smile to a writer’s lips? Another is having one name for a character in chapter one and a different name in chapter ten. (Hey, it does happen)
  4. I enjoy finding pieces of prose that are of such quality someone else must have written them. It is almost like opening a birthday present and finding what you want. I’m one of those writers who gets in a zone and barrels ahead without looking back. I never edit on the fly. As a result, I do forget some things that I have written. Editing allows me to review the whole thing and look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  5. I enjoy finding ways to tweak the story. When starting on an MS, sometimes there are opportunities to foretell a significant event later. These opportunities are often overlooked since the objective is to get to the main events. Editing allows looking at the entire story from an objective position. Little things that happen before the main event can be enhancement targets to give that event even more of a pop. When these situations arise, the pleasure centers go berserk.
  6.  I enjoy being able to improve the story flow. The effect is very satisfying, whether it is cutting out words that slow things down or adding some additional beats and gestures that move scenes ahead. There is an opportunity to view all aspects of the writing when editing. Stuff like rambling prose, backstory fillers, and repetitive character movements can be spotted and changed. Of course, the key is to read your work as if a stranger did it.

There are other things, but these are the basics of what I enjoy about editing. How about you? Are there aspects of editing that you enjoy? Why not talk about it in the comments section.

 

90 thoughts on “What I Enjoy About Editing

  1. Very different when I’m editing for myself vs. editing for someone else. I love to do it for other people because it’s just about letting them know whether or not I understand what they’ve been trying to express, and suggesting changes as needed. But for myself I get bogged down sometimes in choosing just the right word to describe something. I’m getting better at it though. Lately I’ve been able to write without immediately editing myself. Phew.

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  3. Great post., especially plot holes – one in my WIP, almost a CGI bottomless pit
    Fixing it, this week.- and wondering what possessed me to create a 102 year old protagonist ?
    Editing your own work needs to be as ruthless – and hopefully, as supportive as marking student essays.
    I’d love to come across prose so good, someone else must have written it.

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  4. Great post John. As much as I dread the editing part, I actually enjoy rediscovering my stories and finding the incoherent parts, and like you, the surprising certain lines that surprise myself when revisiting, causing me to say, did I really write that? 🙂

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  5. Hi John, like you, I find editing easier than creating from scratch. It is a bit like creating a fondant figure. You first model the basic shape and then you carefully craft all the detail like lips, eyebrows, and teeth. You can’t add the detail without the basic creation first. However, it gets a bit much but the fifth or sixth round and I have the story coming out of my ears. That is why I haven’t written a sequel to anything. I’ve had enough of the characters by the time I publish.

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  6. A fun yet seriously helpful post, John! I like how you’ve turned something you hate into something you can still find some joy in–various aspects that make your “pleasure centers go berserk.” 😁 As for me, I cannot write without editing as I go. Tried it. Hated it. Now I don’t mean my final edit, of course. But as I’m writing, I’m always aware of the words I’m choosing, and often change a sentence two or three times before moving on to the next. Yep, it’s a slower way to reach a daily wordcount, but I can’t focus on the next sentence or paragraph if I don’t feel good about the one I just typed. It’s kinda like having a conversation with a friend, telling her something I realize is wrong, but not correcting my error until we’ve wrapped up our visit. (Does that make sense?)

    One of the most helpful tools I have is a private blog where I submit each chapter as I finish it for a few special readers (I call them betas, though I know others don’t). I can tell from their responses if the chapter did what I needed it to do, and if not, I tweak it before I move on. (Nothing would upset me more than to finish an entire book, send it to beta readers, and find out I’d made a monumental mistake early on that had to be corrected throughout the whole tome.) So, I edit as I go and let my readers check out each chapter, one by one. Then I do a final revision, using Word’s Read Aloud feature extensively, because it’s the best way ever to catch missed words and other small errors that your eye doesn’t pick up. It’s also great for letting you hear those darn word echoes, which are one of my pet peeves! (I detest hearing the same word 3 or 4 times in the same paragraph.) And your ears will catch things your eyes never would.

    When I’ve done my final revision and run-through, I send the cleanest manuscript I’m capable of producing off to my sharp-eyed and very skilled editor who catches any final errors and problems. And THEN, I cross my fingers that between all of us, we’ve managed to make the book as error-free and polished as possible, and I upload it to Amazon for the acid test: what do readers think? I guess you could say, I never stop editing anywhere along the way, but that seems lots easier to me than leaving it all to the end. And besides–it’s how my brain works, so I think I’m stuck with this process.

    Great post, John! And very interesting to see how people approach this. Our methods are as uniquely individual as we are! 😀

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    • A gal after my own heart, Marcia! I loved that comparison with not correcting something you’ve said to someone until after they’ve left. I can’t settle if I feel a chapter’s below par and I’ll keep coming back to it until I can pin down what I think’s wrong with it.

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    • I agree about we all being unique. I have to admire your method, Marcia. For me that process would kill the book. I have to keep running before the devil knows what I’m doing. Then when it is all down the serious work of making it a book begins. I think we do the same things I just give the first draft a completion first. Thanks for sharing your process. I can tell you that after reading your stuff it really works. 😁

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      • So nice of you to say, John, and I’d say the same to you, as well. And that’s the most important thing, after all, isn’t it? That we each find a way that works for us? I write the same way I paint. If I put a stroke on the canvas that doesn’t look right, I remove it and replace with one that works. Colors, shapes, etc, they each have to work before I can move on, or they’d haunt me, hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles. 😀 BTW, the only reason I answered with all that detail was in case some folks hadn’t thought about what a handy tool the Read Aloud thing can be, and how helpful instant feedback as you go is. Not for everyone, but it sure works for me. 😀

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  7. I’m with ya here! The first round of edits is always so fun because it’s where I get to laugh at myself, fill in the gaps, and reignite the creative spark of drafting in the first place. But the second+ rounds of editing, those . . . . much less enjoyable, lol

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  8. I’m someone who runs through the chapters as I go along but when I come to the editing process there’s still always a huge amount that needs to be done. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys nearly all of the process. I loved the analogy of the jarring pot holes, and there is a huge satisfaction in finding things yourself before passing your cleaned up script to others. The bit that grinds me down is my tendency to over use the same words and I’m Thesaurused out and stressed by all the changes I have to make! How many ways can I say ‘realised’? Many thanks for this, John.

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  10. Confession: When I first began writing, I hated editing. I just wanted to write the book. But I’ve come to enjoy edits for many of the same reasons you mentioned. Number four resonates with me. There have been a few times when I’ve read a piece of my writing and think, “Did I really write that? It’s good.”

    And yes, I’ve mixed up character names before, or called characters by the wrong name.

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  11. I never looked at editing as potholes before- good analogy 🙂
    Your list makes me feel better about the process. I have a bad habit of changing seasons midway through the book and finding my hero wearing heavy jackets in the middle of summer, lol

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  12. This is a fantastic article, John. I am fascinated with the processes of other writers. I edit as I write (then hand the finished version to another pair of eyes). I outline, so that eliminates plot holes. But I am in agreement with you that reading words already on the page is such a thrill. This is where I tend to know if what I’m writing makes sense. It’s also a great time, as you’ve pointed out, to find needless words and redundancies. I use the editing process to eliminate scenes that do little to move the story forward. Thanks for giving us a peek at your creative process.

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  13. It is a good time to be a detective and find those plot errors. I just found a day that must have had 48 hours to it, so I fixed that one. I do feel some satisfaction finding those glaring errors. Great post, John.

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  14. Now that I have a critique group, I find myself enjoying the editing process. I enjoy finding new ways to rephrase sentences. I like the creativity that comes with adding more show versus tell into the scenes. I connect with many of the points on your list. Shifting your perspective of a task truly makes a difference. Great post, John! 🙂

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  15. Great article, John! And gosh, how true it is. Editing can be such a task, but it’s a necessary evil. I like the points you’ve made of the enjoyments you find in editing. #4 is definitely how I feel sometimes. Finding a lovely sentence & thinking, where did that come from? I think the biggest thing for me, though, is knowing I’m trying to make my story better, make it more enjoyable. That’s a high like no other. ❤

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  16. I edit as I go, and I find that pretty satisfying. I enjoy catching things and improving them. And it makes the big, final edit easier. I still find plenty of things to fix, but it’s nice to shine up the finished product. I’ve tried just writing to reach the end, and I understand why that works so well for lots of writers, but I get more and more bogged down the longer I go. I can imagine every mistake piling up until I’m buried under rewrites. LOL. A little melodramatic, but I do better editing a little at a time.

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  17. Editing is a crucial part of my writing process. Generally it’s fun and fruitful… Once my head and hands are through, it’s off to the editing pro who expertly finds those little bugs I’ve missed. Great post, John! Sharing…

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  18. I have to admit editing is not my favorite phase of the writing process, but as I read your list, I related to every one of them. I just finished the first round of copy edits on Saddled Hearts, and I did experience all those things you mentioned. It is rewarding to read a line that seems like someone else must have written it because surely you are not that good. 🙂 One thing I did this time for the editing process, was to utilize the Read Aloud feature in Word and WoW! It caught missing words, echoes and so much more. That will be my go-to for editing in the future. Thank you, John, for sharing this and making me realize the joy in editing!

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  19. Because I edit for a living, I don’t find the same joy in it you do. It’s work for me, even when I’m revising my own words. It can be satisfying work, but it’s still work. There is something to be said for finding that nugget of gold I’d forgotten I’d written. Or that mistake I can correct before an editor or (God forbid) a reader points it out.

    Great post, John. And happy editing.

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  20. I am so with you on #1 AND #5. i do edit as I go, so I have a pretty clean draft when I’m through, but I still go back over it several times. It’s wonderful not having to get the words on the page but just tweaking them to make scenes flow better. I don’t mind editing until it reaches the point where I’m reading through the same thing over and over again. And then I experience that feeling of getting sick of my own work, LOL. By that point, I’m super pumped to start a new project!

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  21. I actually enjoy editing, too. I’ve gone back to what I’ve written (maybe one day I’ll actually finish it…) and tweaked and changed and fixed. Of course, there are those who can tweak and change and fix something to death… which is my fear!

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  22. What an enlightening post, John. I love the first read and edit. I am shocked at how many errors pop up. I, too, write heads down, full steam ahead. It is the second and third edits that get to me. I enjoyed your perspective on the process.

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  23. I don’t know that I’ll ever enjoy the process. I’ve gotten more used to it over time. I’m one of those who backs up one chapter at the beginning of every writing session. I manage to fix typos and such that way. After the fact I still seem to find more.

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  24. Great post, John. You prompted me to sit back and figure out what I like (or don’t like) about editing. I tend to edit while I write, which of course slows me down. But when I’m entirely focused on editing, I enjoy the sound of words and their relationship with other words. U enjoy adding depth to a scene. I love creating a pathway through the maze.

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  25. Wonderful post, John. Your pithy observations had me chuckling a few times. It heartens me to see you don’t edit as you write but, rather, fly like the wind. That is so wonderful and well expressed. You listed one of my faves … a line so great someone else must have written it!
    One of the hardest things for me is once I’ve finished writing, and putting the MS away for a few weeks before I begin revisions. It’s so hard putting it down, lols.
    Thanks for sharing 💕🙂

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    • I agree about putting it down, Harmony. It is the best thing though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree finding something written that seems to be outside one’s talent is the greatest feeling.Have a great week. 😁

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  26. Fabulous post, John… I started my writing life as an editor and have always enjoyed the process. Not my work, you understand, but my sisters.
    Much the same way as making home or garden improvements, the satisfaction is amazing and very fulfilling.
    Then I started to write, and suddenly I had to self edit. Not quite the same thing at all, I’m afraid. (but I am getting used to it now)

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  27. I have a confession to make – I love editing. Once I get to the editing stage, my analytical mind is allowed back in the room, and that’s my comfort zone. While I’m actually /writing/ I try all sort of tricks to turn that side of my brain off. Unfortunately, that was a lot easier to do when I was only writing for myself. Once you publish though, a part of your brain is always second guessing how a Reader will react. It’s tiring. Editing, however, puts the Reader front and centre so there’s no longer any conflict. Ok, so I’m weird. lol

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